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Eisenberg: Harbaugh Fired Warning Shot To Ravens Players


Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh didn't bring up the subject in his session with local reporters Thursday, but once the topic of the team's rough off-field offseason came up, he used the platform to send a message to his players, saying he was "concerned" and "disappointed in some of the silliness that's going on."

He went on to fire an even more ominous warning shot, saying the team is always evaluating whether a player's negatives outweigh his positives, "and when the negativity over-balances your ability to help our football team, you're not going to be here anymore. Or if we can't trust your character anymore, then you can't be a part of what we're doing anymore."

I got the feeling Harbaugh said the same to the players before the start of OTAs this week, that enough screw-ups can cost you your job.

The players do know this.

"There have been a number of things that haven't been, over the years, haven't been public that guys have moved on from this team for," Harbaugh said.

That hasn't happened so far with the recent spate of problems. The players who got in trouble remain on the roster. The Ravens have exhibited restraint and support. Any situation along these lines is complex. The Ravens can't (and don't) forget that their goal is to win games. They've invested a lot of time and money in their players, and salary cap ramifications always loom large when you consider cutting ties.

But I'm wondering if that's really the only way the Ravens are going to get through to the players and make the point loud and clear that off-field "silliness" embarrasses the franchise and needs to stop.

I'm a pacifist at heart, but sometimes it takes the nuclear option.

Don't misunderstand: I'm speaking theoretically more than specifically, not pointing fingers at anyone and saying they should lose their job.

But there's no doubt the Ravens' organization is exasperated, as it should be, after receiving too many middle-of-the-night phone calls. And as the old saying goes, "actions speak louder than words." (Or as Ben Franklin put it more eloquently, "well done is better than well said.")

Harbaugh mentioned several corrective steps he has already taken or might soon. Lorenzo Taliaferro, the rookie running back who was arrested last weekend after breaking a taxi window in Virginia, ran 18 gassers with the head coach after an OTA practice. Harbaugh added that he could use training camp to make the team's veterans pay for what a few of their teammates have done wrong.

"We've always had curfews and we've always had a tight rein on training camp, but maybe we need to keep the older guys in a training-camp environment longer, potentially. I haven't thought about that, per se, but those are the kinds of things that are always on the table," Harbaugh said.

Making Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs pay any price would serve as an especially effective deterrent, I would think.

In the end, of course, it is up to the players themselves to own up, get smarter and behave better. They're young guys, but they're still adults, paid to do a job. They need to accept the responsibility that goes with being a pro athlete.

I don't think the Ravens have a larger problem than other teams. Their recent record was fine until these past few months, and no team is absolved from off-field knuckleheadedness (just made up that word).

Put it this way: No fan of any team should throw stones.

But everyone has their own tolerance level, and listening to the Ravens' team officials on the subject, it sure sounds as if they've had about enough. The next player who indulges in "silliness" could pay the ultimate price and find himself on the street.

It might be about time for that.

Three (very quick) takeaways from Thursday's rainy OTA practice:

The rumors about Ray Rice shedding weight are true. He's a whole lot thinner, and looked quick

Regardless if he plays left guard or right tackle, Kelechi Osemele should really help the offensive line perform better than it did in 2013. He looked fully healed from his back surgery, and very active.

Steve Smith, Sr., is going to be fun. His media sessions are highly entertaining. I laughed out loud when he was asked where he liked to line up, and he said, "Between the white lines."

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